Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife: The Movie

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is one of my all-time favorite books, and I have read it at least once and also listened to the unabridged audio book at least 2 times. This was a pivotal book for me, one that got me really reading a lot while I was out in the desert. I was like other die-hard fans, awaiting the movie with both excitement and dread. Movies can and usually do alter the storyline so much that it's almost unrecognizable.

I haven't read any other reactions to the movie - no reviews, no discussions online, so my opinion comes only from my personal reaction. I loved it - I really did, but I do wonder if it might have been a different movie if certain elements had been retained.

First, I think the gist of the story was truly encompassed in the movie. The story editor(s) did a wonderful job of keeping the central theme of Henry and Clare's love first and foremost, and how the two of them dealt with his time-travel was the driving factor. But almost all of Henry's non-Clare life was left out, obviously for time/movie length reasons. The movie is only 1 hour 45 minutes long, however, so maybe they could have touched a little bit (more) on his pre-Clare life - his cynicism that shows through his relationship to his co-workers, his relationship to his other girlfriend Ingrid, even his later life relationships with Gomez and his personal "drug dealer" whose character name I've forgotten. The result is that the movie is lush and romantic, a chick-flick through and through, and the special effects and consequences of his time travel don't really go into how he had to deal with the worlds he entered, naked and unprepared.

I felt the things that they did end up changing for the movie worked well to solve issues that arise from leaving out characters and scenes - how he convinces Dr Kendrick to work with him, for instance, is changed so that the characters of Kendrick's family are never even introduced (although they appear in the movie, you don't know it unless you read the book).

The actors playing Clare (Rachel McAdams) and Henry (Eric Bana) were really, truly wonderful. Clare's obvious excitement at first meeting Henry in the library shone through her eyes - she was also wonderful in the movie The Notebook with these same expressions. She's a very fetching and engaging actor, almost as wonderful as Amy Adams, a real favorite of mine whose eyes are so expressive. I actually thought Eric Bana was almost too good looking to fit my vision of Henry, but he had me at the movie trailer. He never really got a chance to get into the cynical Henry in my mind, since that part of Henry's character isn't explored at all in the movie. The actor playing his mother was also wonderful - very warm.

I wasn't as enchanted with the little girls playing Alba, although using sisters that looked so much alike worked to show the slightly different ages. She had a very fetching look but her spoken dialogue seemed so stiff.

The storyline is that Henry has a gene that causes him to time travel without much warning and with no control. He travels both back and forward in time, but the rules of his time travel are that any amount of time can take place while he is gone and where he goes - for instance, he could only be gone 5 minutes in our present but might have been in the other time for 5 days. He goes only with his body - no clothes, not even fillings, so he arrives naked and penniless. He learns to pick locks and steal to find clothing and money to survive on in the other time, something his adult self teaches his child self early on - meaning he can be an existence of more than 1 when he travels. In fact, he watches his mother's death hundreds of times because he is a visitor there at several ages.

After his marriage to Clare, he travels back to her childhood and is an off-and-on presence in her life from her age 6 on, but when he meets her in real time - she's in her early 20s and he is 28, he has no idea who she is. It's a wonderful scene in the book and I thought it was also a wonderful movie scene as well.

I expected to cry in the movie, because in the book I cry for pages and pages every time I read it. Although I did feel fully engaged in their relationship during the movie, I wasn't moved to even tear up. I would say it was because I already knew what would happen, but I read the book/audio book 3 or 4 times, and cried every time! And in the movie, it's no secret that something is going to happen, but I just didn't get emotional about it.

So - I'm going with 5 stars - it was a wonderful movie, but with the caveat that it's a chick flick through and through, almost to the point of being sappy. The interesting time-travel aspects and the overriding negatives in Henry's life - his alcoholic father, his mother's death when he was 6, his inability to control his time travel, the horrors of his travels - how many times he was arrested, for instance, or the fact that he can't travel by airplane because it wouldn't be where he was when he left, so he would be killed in the fall on return - none of that is really brought out in the movie. Oh, yeah, sure, they show his father drinking, they show him being arrested once and then disappearing - but those are only seconds on screen, where in the book they are given much more weight.

If you're up for a chick flick, this is a wonderful fairy-tale romance - but if you're expecting a time-travel classic and special effects, stay home!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Twilight The Movie

I have now seen the movie of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight - and I must say, they did a good job of portraying the story, in my opinion. The major points were there - of course they had to skip some minor plot lines, and merge some things (the Sadie Hawkins-type dance with the prom) and leave some details out (the whole secret of going to the prom). The vampire/effects were pretty good - I sorta expected a little more from the baseball game, but it was fun anyway.

I wonder if you haven't read the book if you get the full experience. Somehow, when an author describes the look of someone's face and then the emotions behind it, you get a full idea - but on screen you just have to imagine what the actor is trying to show. When the actor is very very good, you are likely to get a closer idea, but even then it's so subjective. In the book, when she describes Edward seeing Bella and his reaction to her in class, you know more about what is going on than when you watch the movie and see the actor look like he might hurl. What, was his lunch bad? really, it's not that clear.

The actress did a good job, in my opinion, of showing Bella's insecurities but not as good a job showing her budding teen-love feelings for Edward. More than once I wanted to tell her to close her mouth. There was so much angst there, and not as much feeling for Edward. Edward, on the other hand, showed more of his true feelings for her. It did seem to rush from "oh, we can't be together" to "I'm taking you to meet the family" - again, on screen there isn't the luxury of time like in a book.

I wasn't sure what the point was of showing the other vampires as practically incestuous couples with commentary from Bella's friends, since they really didn't go into how the vampires lived. Jasper and Emmett were truly back-seat characters, practically wallpaper, and really none of the vampires, including Edward but especially J & E, fit the book description in my own head - beautiful, attractive, tall, strong. I realize my own standards are very different from today's teens, so I guess that's part of it.

The movie focuses mostly on Bella and Edward, with very little interaction with the other human teens, and not much more with the Indian teen Jacob who warns Bella about Edward. In fact, he never does tell her - she finally reads about the Indian legend online. Bella moves to Forks, starts school, meets Edward. Edward tells her in dialog much of what she discovers about them so that we don't have to wait long for her to figure it out. They spend time together, he takes her to the family ball game and BAM the Others show up and Bella's life is in danger.

And once again, a heroine with no talent at all for saving herself manages to decide she knows what is best and ditches the vampires to meet The Other and her own death to save the hero. Where do these heroines get these ideas... I must say, in the audio book, the case is made that she does have to get away to save her mother, whereas in the movie - well, she just walks away without all the buildup, without all the information about what is really happening and how the vampires are there protecting her, and meets the Other where he menaces her. I didn't get a true feeling of the danger she was in or even that she felt she was facing her death, in spite of the voice over.

I am giving it my personal 3 star rating - liked it, didn't love it, but I had a good time watching. I found the young actors engaging if not personally attractive, and the vampire effects fun.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I'm torn between 3 and 4 stars for this book. I listened to it on audio book (free! from the library) because I've been wanting to see the movie and really wanted to have read it first.

It's classified as YA - young adult, which in book lingo really means younger teenagers. I'm not sure why the word "adult" is in there. When I think of young adult, I think 19 or 20 - 24 or 25. But that age is old enough to read Real Adult books, whereas the younger teens are a little old for children's books and a little young for Real Adult books. Hence Young/Adult which I prefer to think of as 2 separate words, rather than Young defining the age of the Adult. Adults read YA all the time, and in addition to the hordes of young teens in love with Edward (and Bella) there are hordes of adult readers who loved it too.

In light of the fact that I read - and love - romance, and it qualifies in many ways as romance, I read it, not sure what to expect. My first impressions: I can definitely see the appeal for younger readers. The teenage girl feeling out of place, both with her mom in Phoenix where she grew up and with her dad in the small Washington town he lives in. That is a feeling many young people get - I don't belong, I'm not like everyone else, and I think it's a fantasy of many that somehow you, the young teen, can take control and make decisions that will change your life. Bella chooses to leave her mother and live with her father as a sacrifice - she hates the small town, but her mother needs the freedom of not having a child to look after. I don't think most of us had the ability to make this type of decision at this age - to move across country.

Then there's the Boy - Edward - that she's so drawn too, and who is drawn to her too. Again, she has control of the situation, because although he can read everyone else's minds, he can't read hers. It's heady stuff - she has control over him because she can mask her thoughts. And he's hopelessly fallen for her, which takes a while to get to the point (sorry if that's a spoiler - although how can it be when everyone knows they get together?)

Here's the YA thing: they hardly even kiss, and really there is no sexual tension at all. OK, maybe there's some slight sexual tension underneath, but you're led to believe that what he's feeling is some vampire thing that humans don't experience - really, he's drawn to suck her blood and basically kill her, not boink her blind. No mention of Sensitive Body Parts. No thrills that shoot to You Know Where. Nothing that even hints of Doing The Deed. In fact, when she describes his body - cold, marble, white, hard (not THERE) - his lips as icy, his hands as frozen - well, I didn't feel anything but Teenage First Love there, not even a drop of lust.

There is some violence which is hinted at strongly in the opening Prologue, and no doubt in the movie will be spectacular. It isn't anything you didn't see in Buffy or countless other prime time tv shows and popular movies. Apparently in American culture, blood, guts, violence, it's all ok for kids to see, just keep the body parts out of it. Oh - there were no bad words that I recall either.

I enjoyed it, but didn't get caught up in Twilight/Edward&Bella fever. For one thing, it's made clear over and over that she's only a junior in high school - so what she thought and felt didn't appeal to me as much as heroines in my Real Adult romance novels, even when they are not much older. The fantasy of being 17 and having so much control over my environment isn't one that strikes my fancy any more, although God knows I indulged in that fantasy for hours when i was that age (and younger, especially younger - yes, I was going to go live with some relative in a completely different state, go to a new school where no one would know me, use a new name, be a different person altogether!)

The story, for anyone who doesn't know, is that Bella goes to Forks, Washington, where she meets the Cullen "family" - a young doctor and his wife and several adopted "teenagers". They're actually vampires who have managed to subdue their human bloodlust, and feed on animals instead. They live in an area as long as possible, then move on to another small town and start over - after all, they don't really age so after a while it might be suspicious that the teenagers never graduate. They're different; she's different. It's a match made in heaven. Like all good vampire tales, the heroine is the vampire hero's soul mate - and he has to have her at any cost, but fights it because it will OUT their vampire-ness. Meanwhile, she's not unpopular there, and makes a lot of friends. But once she develops a tendre for Edward, the shit hits the fan.

There is the Indian tribe that KNOWS and has a treaty with the vampires to keep them off their land. There are the "in" crowd kids who think the Cullen siblings are too creepy to be friends with. There's the protective dad who is also the law there - he likes the Cullens but feels protective towards his daughter's chastity (which is not compromised). And there are The Others - well, you'll have to read the book.

Does Bella become a vampire? Well, not in Book 1, but it's a long series so I guess I'll have to keep reading (or listening) to find out. Now I can rent the movie!

3 stars- that's my final answer. I liked it. I didn't love it.

some random notes about my life

I know, I know, it's been eons since I posted. I haven't stopped reading, but my reading has slowed dramatically with my major life shift. I have a full time outside-the-house job now, where before I worked about 30 hours from home, and even read while working.

Now my job doesn't leave much, if any, time for reading during the day. I had put aside even my audio books while I adjusted to the change, but finally was able to finish Lavinia - which was good - on my way to Baton Rouge last week. On my way back I started Twilight, and finished it up today. I plan to write my review of Twilight next, and if I can remember Lavinia I'll write that one too. I started a new-to-me author, Suzanne Enoch, with a series and I'm on #2, Before The Scandal. Her voice (it's a book - I mean her writing voice) - is ok but nothing special. It's almost as if she has a checklist of points to cover and checks them off as she goes. Also, her use of language is so different from anyone else's - almost too modern, although I don't claim to be an expert of how people spoke during the Regency period. "Apologies" her characters say when asking pardon, coming in tardy, bumping into someone. That sounds so modern.

It's hard to keep an audio book going when my driving commute is only about 10 minutes each way. When I was in Arizona, a trip to the grocery was at least 45 minutes each way, which got me a good ways into a book. But today I managed to just sit and play solitaire and listen to my book - something I hadn't indulged in in a while!

Even reading books is something I'm only doing at bedtime, and then only for 30-45 minutes max, so it's taking me much longer to get through a book. This is less about my being too busy and more about my not having developed a good reading area, and not having adjusted to my new status as single apartment renter - after so many years of sharing a domicile, first with the SO and then with my sister. I have renter issues- last night the air conditioning stopped! I ended up staying in a hotel until the landlord finally answered his phone this morning. (He got the electrician over and it's now fixed, thank gawd!)

I did make it through about 4 of the July releases I'd been looking forward to, and need to catch up on reviewing them. I didn't even try to do any sort of challenge this season - I am trying to get my bearings.

I do so love my new job! It's such a good fit, and everyone there is working hard to do their part. I love being a cog in the gear-system, and I love working for a non profit again, doing what I do best (organizing, bookkeeping, problem solving, the background stuff).

My new apartment is nice too, although this air conditioning issue had damn well better be resolved. I realized today that living in a rented apartment is like being a woman giving birth in a hospital - lots of strangers come in at any time and see your "stuff" - ok, the "stuff" is a little different, I admit, but still! I cleaned up one evening for the next day visit from the landlord's painters, only to discover they had already come in and finished - with my underwear strewn about the bathroom and various other things I would rather not have shared with house painter/strangers. I'm about over it - I have nothing to hide (although I am wondering where my little purse with my laundry quarters and the extra key to the house are...).

My body is not reacting well to the change - the less said about it, the better, but I think I better get serious about getting into better shape. Mentally I have 2 moods - the euphoria of working a job I enjoy, and the bland nothingness I experience when I get home and don't want to face putting together the chest of drawers and shelving units I bought for my clothes and books. I need to break out of the bland nothingness mood - as soon as the temperature in the apartment goes under 79, I promise. (It's at 86 now since the air conditioning wasn't repaired until noon.)

My social life is a little iffy, and I need to reach out to the many folks I know and get out more. However, I'm usually quite happy alone. But I know how I am, and I better start calling folks and reminding them I'm still alive!

So my to do list includes getting my apartment furnished properly, my books put away so I can take my PBS account off vacation and start trading again, my clothes put away, get out and start walking and... lose some weight. Really, even just 4-5 pounds would help, a lot.